Park Road recently posted an entry on our Facebook Page affirming the legal decision to overturn North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages. This was an important moment in the life of our church for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that our co-pastors, Russ and Amy Jacks Dean, were co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against North Carolina’s constitutional ban on same-sex unions.
Although the response to our post was overwhelmingly positive, one person felt compelled to complete a Facebook Review of Park Road and gave our church a 1-star rating (the lowest possible). In her comments, she wrote; “Is this a Christian church?… Bible based?”
Although disappointed in the rating, we were more intrigued by the questions themselves. Does support for same-sex marriages make us un-Christian or less Christian? And have we strayed from the teachings found in the Bible?
Here is our response, written by Pastor Russ Dean.
October 14, 2014
I want to answer your questions earnestly and carefully. I hope you will read my response in that same spirit.
Of course Park Road Baptist Church is a Christian church.
We read from the Bible in every worship service. We sing Christian hymns; our choir offers sacred, Christian anthems. We pray the Lord’s Prayer in every service. We dedicate parents and babies, promising to teach these children the stories of Jesus. We baptize by immersion all who profess a desire to follow in the Way of Jesus. We pray our prayers in the name of Christ. We are active in the community, putting our faith into action, as Paul said, bearing on another’s burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ. We ordain deacons to service. We commission lay members each time we visit our partner congregation in Cuba. The ministers offer our blessings, in the name of Jesus Christ, at every wedding we officiate. We pronounce the peace of God, and the blessed hope, at every funeral.
Your question may have been asked sarcastically, and if that is the case I am sorry. With you, we share the historic center of Christian faith – i.e, orienting our lives around the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose Way leads to life. Regardless of anyone’s stance on homosexuality, there is no room within the biblical witness, nor in the example of Jesus, to justify condemning another as being outside the faith because we disagree on any theological or doctrinal issue, beyond that historic center.
Yes … we are a Christian church. And I would invite you to come and get to know our staff and our congregation, and to see for yourself.
Regarding the Bible: we read the Bible in every worship service. All sermons are expositions of texts of sacred scripture. We teach the Bible in Sunday school and through various programs. The biblical message of the creative work of God and the compassionate love of Jesus gives us the grounding for our faith, and a way of life that issues from that faith. There are, however, many ways to interpret passages of the Bible. This should be neither a surprise nor a disappointment to you. Over the 20 centuries of Christian history, this has always been true.
Some Christians baptize by sprinkling, others by immersing –based on biblical interpretation. Should one side be pronounced heretical by the other? Some Christians understand that ”Thou shalt not kill ” means no war can ever be justified. Others take the text in the last verses of Mark’s Gospel to mean all true believers must handle rattle snakes in worship and must drink poison and survive. For several hundred years human slavery was justified in this country by preachers quoting from the Bible. It might be argued that women cannot sing in church because Paul says women are to be “silent.” Is there any other definition of that word? Yet, I don’t know a church in American that will not permit women in their choirs.
I’m trying to answer your question honestly and with the careful Christian concern that led me to change my own position regarding homosexuality. My position is not non-biblical any more than is the position of women who choose to wear jewelry to work or worship. The New Testament clearly prohibits this. We do, obviously, have a different understanding of how we should interpret a select few verses that speak of homosexuality.
At Park Road, we believe that a more inclusive understanding is not only in keeping with current medical and psychological research, but is more faithful to the inclusive love taught by Jesus himself.
Over the years, the Church has often changed its interpretations of scripture based on advancing science and culture. (There was a time when the Bible validated a scientific world view that saw the earth as the center of the entire universe.) We believe the time is long overdue for the Church to renew its understanding, once again. Doing so will not invalidate the Bible. On the contrary, it will validate Christians who use the Bible as a message of love rather than a weapon of exclusion.We believe that message is desperately needed in today’s world.
I hope you will give this response some prayerful thought. If you have other questions you would like to discuss together, you may let me know.
Grace and Peace…
Co-pastor, Park Road Baptist Church